You Asked It

Oh! You Pretty Things

Advice about makeup for glasses-wearers, keeping your nail game strong, and more.

Should I dye my hair blue or green? I like my brown hair, but sometimes I think it’s too boring. I live in a small village in Austria where everyone knows everyone and everyone has “normal” hair colors, and I’m scared of standing out too much, but I don’t want to be boring either! What to do? —Lena

Clockwise from top left:

Clockwise from top left: Nicole Pascual of Sally Hershberger Los Angeles; Ombre Hair Chalk Set, $10, Urban Outfitters; Kylie Jenner at the Billboard Music Awards, via Glamour; part of the Rainbow Hair Chalk Set, $14, from Urban Outfitters.

Since you’re feeling uncertain, I have an idea: Why not go with a semipermanent-color situation? If you go the temporary route to color and don’t love it, just wait a few weeks and your hair will be back to brown. If you do love it, you can consider a more permanent option, which, for best results, will involve bleaching your hair first. (Here’s some more guidance on that.) This can mean a lot of processing and potential hair damage for something you’re not sure about, and there are SO many ways to get cool colors in your hair without that stuff (here are some suggestions from Indigo), so let’s talk temps!

Just last week, I went to get my bangs trimmed and my awesome hairstylist, Nicole, had just gotten a temporary green dye job on her BLACK (i.e., tough to color) hair and it looked amazing. The downside is that the process she used might not be available near your Austrian village, but I’m going to stay optimistic and tell you about this stuff anyway.

The miracle product Nicole used is L’Oreal’s Hairchalk. It comes in bright, fun colors, can be applied over dark hair, and WASHES OUT IN 2–10 SHAMPOOS. I know, the name sounds like some of that actually chalk-like stuff lots of companies are making right now that you essentially draw onto your hair, but this product is different! Hairchalk involves a process that I won’t begin to explain because I don’t quite understand it—something-something science! What I do think I might know is that it’s better for your hair than permanent color because it doesn’t strip your hair of pigment in order to deposit the new shade—instead, it just coats the hair, then gradually washes away. On brunettes, I’m really loving large panels of blue and green, but you can also do your whole head. Here’s the downside: Getting it done in a salon it can cost around $100. Eep! But! You can buy the stuff on Amazon for about $18 (plus shipping) and do it yourself at home—L’Oreal provides instructions for that here. Now, on to some other affordable options…

Have you heard of the more commonplace and super-temporary (as in, it comes out in one wash) “hair chalk,” or “hair shadow,” as it’s sometimes called? A lot of companies, like Urban Outfitters and Sephora, make versions of this stuff at varying price points, but they’re usually under $25, and sometimes way under. Some are very dry and require you to prep your hair with water, hairspray, or wax to give the chalk something to stick to. Some brands ask that you set the color with a heat-styling tool like a flat iron. Just follow the instructions on the packaging and be sure to cover your clothes with a towel, wear gloves, and keep your expectations reasonable in terms of how vibrant the result is going to be, if you have darker hair. I love this tutorial:

You can also try doing one-day color with regular old oil pastels from the art store! Just pick a deep, vibrant hue and apply it to damp hair, making sure, again, to protect your clothes from the impending mess. Once the color dries, set with hairspray. I’d recommend wearing your hair UP after using pastels, as they’re not formulated to stick to hair quite so well and some might rub off onto your shoulders or shirt collar.

Even less commitment is required for clip-ins, but you know what I’m thinking? Why not just go for it and bleach your hair and then dye it blue or green? In the olden days of the ’90s, I always did mine myself with a bleach kit like this one and some dye, both from Manic Panic. Follow the instructions on whatever product you choose. Remembering color theory, if you start with blue you can always go green later, but not vice versa without a lot of tears and hair damage. (You can always have it professionally stripped of a crazy color and filled back in with brown if you have Dyer’s Regret,™ but I don’t think you will.) And I don’t think anyone in your town will make a big deal out of it. One time, I dyed my friend Mark’s hair blue and he got suspended from high school for a week for being “too distracting,” but we fought the good fight 20 years ago so that you youth of today would not be so oppressed. I hope this blue-haired revolution has reached your village! If not, get a T-shirt printed with a photo of Kylie Jenner and the words keeping up with one kardashian and hope they’ll get the message. —Jane Marie

I love nail polish and would switch up my color every day if I could, but after a week of daily removal/application, my nails start to literally slough off of my fingertips. Is there anything I can do about this, or am I doomed to natural nails forever? —MC, Canada

Hello, my fellow nail polish enthusiast! I’m just gonna be straight with you: Lay off changing your color every day. It sounds like you love variety in your life (and on your hands), and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if your nails are literally “sloughing off,” I think it’s time to PAUZE and take a moment for those nails to catch their breath, know what I mean?

During this break from at-home manicures, work on repairing your nails. Olive oil is a natural nail strengthener that you might already have in your kitchen! Heat up a dish of oil in the microwave for a few seconds, so it’s a little bit warmer than room temp, then soak your bare nails in it for about 10 minutes. This can help restore shine and moisture to your damaged clawz. You can also use Vaseline, generically known as petroleum jelly, which is also quite likely to already be lying around at your house, to heal your nails. Before bedtime, coat your nails in this goop, put on a pair of cotton gloves like these, and wear your weird new hand-pajamas overnight. It might feel awkward at first, but your nails will be back to new in no time. There are also specific nail-strengthening products out there, like the Sally Hansen one in the collage below, if you find these DIY methods aren’t cutting it.

When your nails look and feel strong again, start fresh, product-wise. If you’re constantly removing your nail polish with an acetone-based remover, that’s probably contributing to your nail damage in a major way. While acetone is great for removing stubborn dark or glitter polishes, it can strip your nails of moisture, so use it sparingly, and switch to a non-acetone remover as your main jam.

Do you use a base coat before applying polish? A clear base polish serves as a protective barrier between your nails and your color polish, which, depending on the formulation, also might be part of what’s ailing ya (more on this in a minute).

Finally, be mindful of the ingredients in your polishes. Choose products that are “3-free,” i.e., that aren’t formulated with three common but possibly harmful ingredients: formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. Many polishes are now also “5-free,” which means they are also free of formaldehyde resin and camphor. (More info on all these chemicals, and what they can do to your nails, can be found here.) Inglot makes a good “4-free” formula that is also “breathable,” meaning it allows air and water to penetrate your nails through the polish, which helps them maintain moisture. Here’s that polish, plus some of my favorite nail-preserving potions:

Clockwise from top left:

Clockwise from top left: Formula X nail strengthener, $14, Sephora; Cutex non-acetone polish remover, $3, Walgreens; Nail Magic base/top coat, $7, Sally Beauty Supply; Inglot O2M Nail Enamel, $15, Beautylish; Sally Hansen Miracle Cure nail treatment, Walmart.

So: You don’t have to give up your love for polish completely. What kind of life would that be? (A perfectly fine one, but you know what I mean.) Just make some adjustments: After their time convalescing with some strengthening/moisturizing stuff, maybe try changing your color up once or twice a week, and use fun stuff like stickers, gems, bows, to make your daily changes? You could also flex your artistic skillz and paint new stuff on your existing polish job when you get bored. Good luck! —Marie


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  • Simone H. June 18th, 2014 1:35 AM

    Wait, wait, wait. I might be wrong, but I would NOT suggest oil pastel on your hair. I actually use soft pastel, which is more like chalk. Apply it the same way as regular hairchalk, but jut FIY, it’s VERY drying and might smudge everywhere.
    Also, for the nails chick, if you can afford it, I highly recommend OPI Nail Envy. You can apply it like a cure/treatment or as a base or top coat. I swear by this stuff. <3
    And when I go swimming, since I have atopic skin, I apply Bariéderm by Uriage. It's water resistant. I don't know if you have it in your country but if do, you'll find it in pharmacies. :)

    Otherwise, great advice, thanks !

  • editha June 18th, 2014 6:00 AM

    @ Lena: I’m older and in Vienna now, but I once was a 17-year-old in an Austrian village too. I totally understand why you don’t want to stand out too much! If you’re still in school and don’t have to work, the upcoming summer break might be the perfect time to try out a new colour – at least you have some control over who sees you and time to adjust the color if you don’t like the first result.
    I also think you can buy L’oreal professional products like hairchalk at ROMA (or other Friseurbedarfs-Geschäfte) and they have shops in many smaller towns all over the country.
    And when in doubt: Scheiß da nix ;)! I now regret not being braver back then…

  • sissiLOL June 18th, 2014 10:03 AM

    Love this new column!
    Die erste Frage war doch von jemandem aus Österreich, oder? Hättest du vielleicht Lust Teil eins deutschsprachigen Rookiemags (zuminest ähnlich) zu werden? Wenn ja kommentiere doch dieses Kommentar oder etwas auf meinem Blog Ich würde mich SEHR freuen!

  • juliaDC June 18th, 2014 10:21 AM

    Fishie! I registered just to tell you this. I don’t swim as much as you but I do go 2x/week and let me spread to you the gospel of powdered vitamin C.

    Buy a spray bottle with 8 oz + capacity. Mix 1/2 tsp powdered vitamin C (available at Trader Joe’s or online or probably other grocery/drug stores) with 8 oz water. After swim, spray all over your body including hair, rub in a little, rinse, wash your hair and body as normal. Vitamin C neutralizes the chlorine – no pool smell, dramatically reduced skin drying. Infinitely cheaper than those tiny bottles of after swim spray.

  • Starzie June 18th, 2014 12:57 PM

    I bleached the tips of my hair recently, and have been loving the results! If you are looking for a more subtle change you could also use henna!
    My friend bleached and then dyed her whole head green and it turned blue after she went in the ocean.
    Anyone know how to remedy this?


  • sans.sheriff June 18th, 2014 5:24 PM

    Another option for dying your hair, if you have bob length or longer hair, is to dye a section of your hair in the back so that when you wear your hair down, your normal colored hair covers it. (I’m not sure if I’m explaining this well, but it’s the hair at the nape of your neck, so that if you flipped all of your hair over, you could see the color.)
    I used to color my hair like this, and now I have that part of my hair shaved (which is called a nape undercut). I like it because it lets me choose when my hair is going to stand out– when I wear it down, it looks 100% normal, & when I wear it up, BAM INSTANT PUNK LOOKS.

  • I W June 18th, 2014 7:31 PM

    For glasses- it sounds weird, but powder/talc on the bit of the glasses that touches your nose- stops them moving around so much because it soaks up oils and things :) also, just use powder foundation or don’t put any where your glasses actually sit.
    (some of these noticeable pores could be small blackheads? maybe try pore strips. Even if it turns out to not be blackheads, they’re really satisfying to rip off)

  • droppingdaisies June 18th, 2014 10:09 PM

    im literally ecstatic after reading that the hairchalk works on black hair – i just ordered the purple :-)))) BLESS UR SOUL FOR SHARING THIS VALUABLE INFO

  • Nadifa June 19th, 2014 2:59 AM

    Thank you for the glasses-wearer make up tips. Please give us more on what kind of make up suit us the best.
    I also decided to go to prom with my glasses on, and I’m not ashamed :)

  • greyhounds July 16th, 2014 5:06 PM

    Ohmygod, I’m so excited that you answered my question!!!! Thank you so much!! :) I totally forgot that I’d asked you about colouring my hair!! I saw the first picture beneath a post I read and thought: Hmmm.. interesting.. :). At first, I was like: Oh, cool, this girl is also called Lena. ;D Then I noticed, that it was ME :) I’m sorry, but I have to write in German now ;)

    @editha: Ja, bei mir daheim ist es auch noch eine ziemliche Besonderheit, wenn jemand blaue Haare hat.. Aber ich werd das von l’oreal echt bald ausprobieren!! In Linz werd ich es wohl schon finden (bei mir daheim eher nicht… ;D ) !! Voll lieb, dass du einen Kommentar geschrieben hast!!

    @sissiLOL: Ja voll, ich hab dir schon einen Kommentar geschrieben:D

    I think, in the next days, I’m gonna try the thing with the l’oreal-hair-chalk-for-longer-whatever-colour :)

    Thanks soooooooo very much for answering
    (The t-shirt is already bought ;D )